It won’t quit. Critics of President Donald Trump screech profanities on TV, they throw press secretaries out of restaurants and one of them on Tuesday said the Supreme Court’s upholding of a travel ban was the equivalent of one of the worst things it has ever done.
That would be allowing Japanese-American citizens to get locked up in concentration camps during World War II, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wasn’t through yet. In a dissent, she wanted the world to know that Trump had called for a complete Muslim ban during the campaign, and that this very act, an example of his recurring religious bias, was all the evidence needed that his ban was a disgrace to America, the Constitution, all we stand for.
What we had here was still another example of an overreaching Trump adversary aiming to do more damage to our precious system of governance than he could come up with at his very worst. The occasion was a 5-to-4 decision upholding his effort to keep terrorists from coming our way from countries where they are plentiful and where vetting is a lost cause the United States is trying to restore.
Chief Justice John Roberts got at the truth of things in his ruling that said it was not the job of the court to judge Trump’s statements but to judge whether they influenced what he did. They didn’t. There was no religious discrimination in the ban. It was religiously neutral. It was also well within the president’s authority and responsibilities as decided, not by emotions riding high, but by statutes.
This decision, he wrote, was in no way akin to OKing the racist roundup of Japanese-Americans, something that was objectively illegal and scarcely a presidential prerogative. Sotomayor’s contrary contention strikes me as saying she cares not a whit for rule of law, just as lower courts ruling against Trump’s second and third bans were doing serious, politicizing harm to a judiciary thereby rendered less credible.
To not a few leftists out there, the decision was just another instance of conservatives outnumbering liberals on the court. It was more than that. It was the people believing in the most obvious meanings of the Constitution outnumbering those who want to reform it into vaporous ideals they can then twist anyway they like. Their take is that the 18th century document is outdated and that playing loose is the way to go. The real solution, if they are right about a need for change, is the legitimate amendment process that requires widespread consensus.
Sometimes it has seemed we do not even have a Constitution anymore, just an oligarchy of nine people taking the place of Congress. With one appointment, that of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump has done much to keep constitutionality in place, as was shown by still another decision Tuesday.
California had written a law saying that anti-abortion, crisis pregnancy centers must advertise where abortions can be had, which is kind of like saying Republican headquarters should advertise speeches by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. The First Amendment has something to say about this, as did another 5-to-4 court decision that, of course, still allows the state government to advertise all it wants.
Liberty lives on, at least for a while.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at email@example.com.